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Digging Deep into Netflix for Your Thanksgiving Indie Film Fix

Great Happiness Space

Still from the Great Happiness Space.

Don't try and deny it: Thanksgiving is a stay at home holiday. The sort of people who trek to exotic locations for the harvest holiday are the same ones that go on six vacations a year and have "drivers"–suffice to say, you're probably not one of them. Unless you're John McAfee and you're planning to spend the holiday liveblogging your flight from the authorities or you've got a nice cosy seat staked out at the closest bar (sometimes a necessity after visiting family), you'll be stuck indoors with the people that mean the most to you. Or are the most mean to you, whichever it may be.

If you're sinking into a couch somewhere in the company of friends and family, there are still some worthwhile movies in the wasteland that is Netflix that aren't a total wash. Here's a quickie list of seven off-queue indie suggestions culled deep from the bowels of the online giant that will give you (just a little) culture from the couch this Thanksgiving.

The Great Happiness Space
Be warned: the title of this American-made documentary on male Japanese host club workers (you might call them "emotional strippers") is ironic. They're not actually very happy. This slickly lensed look at the the culture of manufacturing and monetizing emotion seemed very Japanese when it came out in 2006 is starting to look more and more like it could be an American reality very soon.

On Any Sunday
The quintessential motorcycle movie, featuring avid weekend warrior and tournament racer Steve McQueen. Sunday is the Endless Summer of motorcycling, and was also directed by chronically modest documentarian Bruce Brown. Saturated footage flashes back to a more innocent time when motorcycles were verging on a national pastime, and kids were more likely to die yelling "Woo Hoo!" in a fiery crash than an ill-ventilated basement gripping an XBOX controller. It's certainly nostalgic, but limiting a viewing to that frame would be to underrated this gem of a film.

Bay of Blood

Get spun up for the opening of Another Hole in the Head next week with the film that some people consider to be the original slasher. Mario Bava's proto-exploitation gore fest has all the fixings you've come to expect from the genre: Big knives, big kills, and big, heaving breasts. Like most modern slasher films, it has barely a shred of plot, which somehow manages to be an asset as it frees the viewer up to enjoy the film's colorful scenery and removes any obligation to feel bad about it when the characters are hacked to bits one by one (naturally).

Quill

This low-key story of the life and times of a golden retriever as he grows from unbearably squish-able puppy to trustworthy guide dog will most likely make you pathetically whimper in front of all guests at least once. A huge hit in its native Japan, Quill is almost impossibly subtle by Beethoven's 2nd standards, so when one of the younger set complains about the subtitles you can send them to bed and start watching what you really want to see, but at that point it will probably be too late as you watch enraptured, stifling tears like the best of 'em.

The Thirteenth Floor
Regarded as a Matrix also-ran thanks to the unfortunate timing of its release date, this stylish thriller merges LA Confidential-era Los Angeles with a computer-age paranoia plot and actually owes more to Fassbinder's World on a Wire than it does Mr. Smith and Co. Fans of Lynch's eXistenZ will also want to zone in on this one before it is unjustly relegated to the dollar bin of history.

Half Nelson

This one isn't that much of a secret. If you've been wondering where the heck Ryan Gosling came from or you still have not had enough, this might help you out. It's certainly not his first movie, but it's the one that put him on the map as a real actor (said in Will Fewell's imitation James Lipton voice). Spoiler alert: Gosling is a high school teacher who smokes crack. He's also super cool. There. Now you want to see it.

I'm a Cyborg But That's OK
After completing his "Vengeance" trilogy, Old Boy director Park Chan Wook tapped into what must be an unimaginably large reserve of good will to create a film that is best described as the Korean Amelie–if Amelie were to take place in a mental institution. Starring the adorable Bae Doo Na (who recently popped up in Cloud Atlas, again as a robot), and a K-Pop star called Rain, Cyborg merges the sci-fi and rom-com genres in a way that is entirely precious and lovable, but doesn't generate the douchey chills of the latest Gerard Butler-starring holiday cash-grab.